Art Seavey Contributing Writer

November 1, 2002

Tim Allen reprises his jolly role in The Santa Clause 2
By Art Seavey Contributing Writer | ATLANTA

Santa Claus (played by Tim Allen) is the man with the plan at the North Pole in Disney’s The Santa Clause 2, the sequel to the 1994 smash family hit. In this installment, Santa must find a wife to keep his holiday role. Title: The Santa Clause 2 Starring: Tim Allen, Elizabeth Mitchell, Judge Reinhold Director: Michael Lembeck
Length: 105 minutes
Rating: G

Tim Allen is back at it again after a hiatus of almost eight years from playing the big guy in the red suit. The Santa Clause 2, from Walt Disney Pictures, opens today, which might seem a bit early for the holidays, but appropriate, considering his task. This time around, there’s another clause to worry about: “The Mrs. Clause.” The elves inform Scott Calvin, played by Tim Allen, that if he does not find a wife by Christmas, he will cease to be Santa Claus.

Another problem: his son Charlie is on the “Naughty” list. He does what every good parent would do and leaves work to guide his rebellious teen. His replacement, however, decides to take initiative around the toy shop and makes changes that could ruin Christmas forever. The majority of the cast returns from the first film. Elizabeth Mitchell joins as Carol Newman, the principal of Charlie’s high school. Michael Lembeck was brought on to direct the feature.

Tim Allen is best known for his role as the accident-prone “Tim the Tool Man Taylor” from the hit television series Home Improvement. He has also ventured into the animated world, playing the voice of Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story and Toy Story 2. His latest films include Galaxy Quest, Joe Somebody, and Big Trouble. “Somebody said earlier, ‘You’ve become the Tom Cruise of kids’ movies.’ And I punched him,” Allen joked.

He commented that it is easy to fall into that typecast, and stated that it’s not his preference, but at the same time not a bad one. “I look at it that this is a Santa Claus movie for adults…I don’t particularly like these kinds of movies. I do them as though I would go see them. And this one I would go see.” It is only the lack of sex, violence and curse words that gives the movie its G rating, not lack of humor. “It’s tough to do high brow comedy these days, because no one’s used to it. You’re used to a constant stream of crap. We do have one gas joke, though,” Tim laughed. “What’s funnier than a reindeer fart?” questioned Lembeck. “A reindeer fart-there’s nothing funnier. Unless you’re near it,” Allen followed up with supporting sound effects.

The prosthetics used to transform the otherwise slender Tim Allen into the jelly-belly big guy are truly incredible. There is no second-guessing his character based on looks. They took close to four and a half hours each day to apply. “The one guy that did some of my stunt work had to get in it so he was the only one I really liked on the set,” Allen said. Needless to say, it was a little uncomfortable. Once he was in the prosthetic suit, there was no getting out. His pattern of eating was definitely affected, and when he had to go, well, he went. “There’s a little poop and pee vent. You don’t want to be doing a lot of movement,” Allen said.

Allen believes that the audience will get their money’s worth. With the time and effort he put into it, he assures that it will be enjoyable. “You walk away with a little bit more hope and faith and a cheesy grin. It’s a cheesy movie. Cheesy, big smile, lovable,” said Allen.

Elizabeth Mitchell stars opposite Allen. Her past credits include the mother in Frequency, Molly in Nurse Betty, and her breakthrough performance in the HBO production, Gia, opposite Angelina Jolie. She is widely known for her role as Dr. Kim Legaspi on the NBC series ER. Mitchell became involved with the project through the desire of the director. “Michael came to me, which I thought was a surprise-it’s not my usual fare. I didn’t think that I was in any way big enough. I do little movies.” Mitchell plays the role of the principal, and obviously the possible love interest of Scott Calvin [Tim Allen].

She plays it sternly and often disturbingly tough, as though she was dealing with students from Dangerous Minds. “My boyfriend was holding my hand and I swear to you he let it go. When I was playing it I thought I was just being exacting and kind of tough. Maybe I have an evil side I’m not aware of,” Mitchell said.

She has a deep admiration for Tim Allen after spending endless hours with him on the set. “I realized you’re really only as good as the person with you. And Tim is so funny,” she said. “Everything I do in that movie is just reacting to him and trying not to laugh, and in some cases trying not to cry. He actually has the ability to be truly genuine and amazing.” Mitchell was not always a star of the screen. “Money was always a problem. I worked every temp job you could possibly work,” Mitchell recalled. “I’m also a huge believer in education. I was educated up the wazoo before I actually started to work professionally.” An understatement if anything.

She earned a BFA in acting from Stephens College, performed graduate studies at the British American Drama Academy, and spent six years at the Dallas Theater Center. There is a recurring theme with her roles. She’s solely attracted to those that convey strong women. “I never am attracted to victims. I find victim mentality to be something that begets women of all ages and I can’t stand it,” she said. “Not only that, but I wouldn’t know how to play it.” As far as upcoming projects, the slate is clean for now. “I’ve read things, and I haven’t liked anything,” she said. It is a matter of finding what she wants to do. With the exposure that she will earn from The Santa Clause 2, Elizabeth Mitchell surely will not have to wait for Hollywood to come to her.

Way back in 1994, Disney’s The Santa Clause was a box office hit. The extended period between films is primarily due to Allen’s search for an ideal follow-up that would match, if not rival, the first. “[Tim’s] mantra has always been, I won’t do a sequel for sequel’s sake, it’s gotta be a wonderful story,” clarified Lembeck. Lembeck, is one of the premiere veterans of television. He has appeared in over 200 episodes and directed nearly 300 in the past fourteen years. He is most famous for his work on Friends, which earned him an Emmy in 1996.

The Santa Clause 2 is his directorial feature film debut. He was the thirteenth director in over a two-day period pitching their ideas for the movie. “They flew me to Tim’s house and we spent two hours together there, and then I left his house and went over to a producer’s house where all the Disney executives and everybody were gathered. And I had to pitch it all over again.” Michael Lembeck had to keep order on the set, and with Tim Allen’s inner-child nearby that proved to be a daunting task. But Lembeck also contributed to the mayhem. “It was an impossible task. Everyday was torture,” he jokingly said. “It’s like two eight-year-old brothers were left the entire house to themselves and their parents are gone…and they said you can do anything you want for as long as you want and you don’t have to clean up.” “From the very beginning I wanted to have a unique experience. I treated this movie as if it were the first one,” Lembeck said.

People might think the pressure was enormous to produce a hit film, and it was. Lembeck coolly ignored that. “Every big movie represents the success or death knell of a studio it seems nowadays. I don’t take any of that s- with me,” he stated.

The Verdict: The movie is cinematically rich and vibrant; the intended audience is adults and children. However, it is hard to live up to the first film, and this one falls just short.

Liz | Santa Clause 2